Devious decluttering

by S&M

Clutter Confessions: The One Thing of Theirs I Wish I Could Toss

Haha! This could be fun. Expanding it from romantic partners to include other family members, I’d say I’m really not a fan of the generic black/white reversible jersey from the Y that my son has tacked up on his wall. Between me not having to look at it and teens needing to experiment with their own identity, I don’t think it’s worth the battle that would ensue if I insisted he take it down.

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Illness, Setbacks – looking inwards, coping with it all

by Louise

A mouthful of a title! How did Totebaggers cope with illness in themselves or loved ones, how do Totebaggers cope with setbacks? One day everything is fine, the next day dark clouds appear on the horizon.

My household just dealt with a bout of illness and all our issues are not yet resolved.
I thought of this book, I had been intending to read it but put it off, will pick it up again.

Review: In ‘When Breath Becomes Air,’ Dr. Paul Kalanithi Confronts an Early Death

School trips

by Denver Dad

The last few years, my kids have gone on several school trips out of state and overseas. DS went to Boston two years ago, they both went to D.C. last year, and DD went to Costa Rica this year. One of DS’ teachers is planning a trip for next year to France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany that we will probably let him go on. Our feeling is that these trips are great opportunities for the kids, and we can afford them, so we want to take advantage of them. Realistically, we’re never going to get to all of these places as a family.

I also think a big part of the trips is the kids getting to be on their own (with other kids and some chaperones, of course, but not their parents) and establish some independence. I tell them flat out that I don’t want to hear from them while they are gone. On the Costa Rica trip, the teacher sent photos and updates several times a day, and while it was nice to see what they were doing, but I would have preferred to have had no contact until the end. I definitely seem to be in the minority on this, most of the parents were very concerned about the international calling/texting and wifi access so they could have daily contact with their kids.

What trips have your kids taking and/or are planning on going? Have there been any that they didn’t enjoy, or you felt weren’t worth the money? And how much do you try to stay in touch with the kids while they are gone?

The X Plan

by Honolulu Mother

This blog post by Bert Fulks recommends a variant on the you-can-always-get-a-ride-home policy that I’ve seen recommended before (including on the Totebag) for the teenage years. He describes it thus:

Let’s say that my youngest, Danny, gets dropped off at a party. If anything about the situation makes him uncomfortable, all he has to do is text the letter “X” to any of us (his mother, me, his older brother or sister). The one who receives the text has a very basic script to follow. Within a few minutes, they call Danny’s phone. When he answers, the conversation goes like this:

“Hello?”

“Danny, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”

“What happened?”

“I’ll tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”

At that point, Danny tells his friends that something’s happened at home, someone is coming to get him, and he has to leave.

It seems like a good idea. What says the Totebag’s collective wisdom?

Holidays from hell

by Grace aka costofcollege

What was your holiday from hell?  Maybe you’ve not suffered from situations as horrible as those in the article linked below, but have you had any time time when your carefully planned trip did not turn out as smoothly as anticipated?  Illness, injury, missed flights, dismal accommodations, horrible weather, unruly or incompatible traveling companions, disappointing destinations, or something else?

Holidays from Hell: From frisky elephants to a loo filled with frogs, tourists reveal the hilarious moments their trips went VERY wrong

One of my recent travel disasters caused me to miss my kid’s college graduation ceremony.  The series of unfortunate events began with a widespread thunderstorm pattern that cancelled our flight and ended with me pulling up to campus the next day just after the last graduate had been handed their diploma.  In between were many snags, including a daylong wait at the originating airport, outrageously priced replacement tickets, misplaced luggage, unexpected highway construction on the way to campus, and a clueless cab driver who asked me for the best alternate route.

My sister once spent the night with her toddler at O’Hare International on Christmas Eve. What travel mishaps or disappointments have you had?  Can you laugh at them now in hindsight?

Nosy, or not?

from S&M

This is another article that could go two ways.

1. People could tell about inappropriate questions lobbed at their children or themselves, and about defending/ teaching their kids how to respond.

2. We could talk about things our kids try to hide from us that we really do need to know, whether academic or otherwise. That could also include other relationships where ideas of what’s proprietary and what needs to be shared differ.

What’s Worse Than Waiting to Hear From Colleges? Getting Interrogated About It

Impact of Social Acceptance on Food and Lifestyle Choices

by Louise

The article below caught my eye. We now drink more bottled water than soda. A big part of this has to do with how we as a society now perceive soda. Sure we still drink it but at least among the Totebag set it is a once in a way item (or banned completely) rather than drunk daily.

What food or lifestyle habits have you made changes to over the years. Any items you have given up due to social pressure?

Soda Loses Its U.S. Crown: Americans Now Drink More Bottled Water

Buying a car

by lagirl

Finally after 13 years of driving my Corolla I am going to buy a new car. Some of you may remember I wanted the Lexus IS 250 but have recently become enamored with the new Civic. Clearly the Civic will be much cheaper. I test drove it and it feels very similar to my Corolla.

Any tips of negotiating through email? They told me that they don’t offer 0% financing but i know a lot of companies do.

Also, I’m interested in changing my insurance company as well-anyone have one they really like?

Weather the weather

by S&M

Whether the weather is cold or whether the weather is hot
Whether the weather is nice or whether the weather is not
Whatever the weather we’ll weather the weather
Whether we like it or not!

We talked recently about liking summer, but only a little bit about why people like specific seasons (aside from a detailed list from the resident stand-up comedian). I’m curious what parts of the forecast people look at, beyond temperatures and precipitation that affects their commute.

How dependent on the weather are you? What types of weather do you need for your favorite activities? Do pollen or other weather-related factors influence your physical health and general well-being?

When talking is the wrong way to show support

by Honolulu Mother

I was interested in this Washington Post article suggesting that sometimes the best way to be a supportive parent is to stay quiet, at least until your child is ready to talk:

The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak

This is not a natural response for me. I have learned over time that there are times it’s best to say what you have to say and then drop it, or wait for a better time to raise a thorny topic — this isn’t limited to parenting, either — but I hadn’t really thought about the option to say nothing in a situation such as the one described in the article (disappointing loss in a big game). I’ll have to remember that as another tool in my parenting toolbox.

Is the don’t-talk approach something you would use, or have used, in a similar situation? What do you think of the advice?

Should you trust news reports about studies?

by MooshiMooshi

You know how everyone complains that studies get reported in the media which then get contradicted a year or two later? Well, it turns out there are reasons for this.

Study: half of the studies you read about in the news are wrong

It turns out that reporters tend to report on initial studies, which are more likely to be contradicted in one or more ways later on. In the world of science, inital studies are just that: initial.

Besides the attention grabbing headline, this article has a good critique of the reasons why initial studies tend to be reported instead of the later metareviews which are more likely to be correct.

This is a real problem. People learn about science mainly through the media, and if it feels like everything reported turns out to be wrong, people start distrusting science. If reporters were more careful to publicize the later, more complete studies, people might develop more faith in science. I think reporters, too, should spend more time explaining the process of science to their readers, rather than just pushing out headlines and brief explanations of what may be very small and very tentative studies.

Good science and financial reporters are in terribly short supply, And given the fragile state of the field of journalism these days, I don’t see it improving. But these are two areas that impact everyone. People have to make decisions about both science and financial information all the time, including when they vote. How can we improve public understanding?

Is The Villages for you?

by MBT

My parents are in the process of visiting their local versions of The Villages. Because I would love for them to be near me, I am visiting a few in Houston in the hopes of offering them a comparable choice, both in amenities and cost. From what I’ve learned, it is a pretty darn appealing lifestyle. The ones they are interested in are referred to as Continuous Care Retirement Centers, and offer a range of completely independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing/rehabilitation services, and memory care.

Their first choice is essentially like living on a cruise ship. You buy in to your unit, and they have 21 floor plans to choose from of various sizes. There is weekly housekeeping, including changing linens, and some sort of call button if you have a problem. The Villages takes care of all repairs and maintenance, replaces your appliances (and makes your lightbulb selections!) when they need to be replaced, covers all utilities other than cable, and includes a choice of several restaurants and a bar that has “social hours”. On the day they visited, lunch in the fancier restaurant included salmon, asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes, and a slice of hot apple pie with ice cream for dessert. (No cooking or dishes, and hot apple pie – I think my mom was sold at that point!) In addition, you have no lawn maintenance, etc.

All at no additional cost, they have a fitness room, with personal trainers who come in at appointed times, offering yoga and other classes, a pool for swimming laps, and various healthy living courses. They also offer technology courses such as how to use your iPhone and iPad, they have an art studio, pool tables,putting green, poker tournaments, two libraries, and have outings such as architectural tours, trips to the movies, happy hours, parties, and other things. They will take you to appointments, haircuts, or wherever else you need to go. They also have a private dining room you can reserve if you want to have guests, and have a guest suite available for visiting friends and family. Again – my mom is pretty enticed by the fact that you don’t have to do all the work to get your house ready for guests.

When they were visiting, they saw friends my dad had retired with, former neighbors, and ran into people from church. It is clearly a pretty social place. Some friends told them they like to come down for lunch, order two lunches but split one and bring the other back to their room. Then they stay in for dinner and just reheat the leftovers. I’m sure you could get take-out or a meal sent up from the restaurants as well if you didn’t feel like a shared dining environment.

I had never given much thought to where we’ll live when we’re older, but I have to say The Villages is now a contender. I like my independence and a fair amount of quiet time, but it seems that you could have whatever blend of social and private that you would like. It seems like an excellent way to extend the amount of time you are able to live independently, albeit at a cost. It appears that the buy-in will be about $150-$200K more than my parents will sell their house for, and the monthly fee will be somewhere between $5500-$6000. The pricing is all very sketchy and non-transparent, with the whole “if you are willing to sign the contract today, I can give you a discount of x” pressure. So far, the ones I have seen a reasonable distance from me are nice, but are smaller so they do not offer as many amenities, or three meals a day, and in some cases, no bar and no wine or spirits available with meals.

Do you have any experience with any version of retirement living? Have you given any thought to where you’d like to live when you hit your golden years?

Recharging

by Lark

DH and I had a brutal week a few weeks ago. Work was both high volume and high complexity, DH had 2 evening commitments, and one of the animals (and therefore one of our credit cards) wound up at the emergency vet, and everyone was fighting colds. By Friday night all I wanted to do was put on PJs at 6pm and have a glass of wine, but we had a friend’s birthday party to attend first. I woke up Saturday morning completely wrung out, and determined to spend the weekend recharging my batteries.

I ended up splitting my day into 4 parts. In the morning I puttered around the house, catching up on the laundry, paperwork, and general clutter that snuck in while I was distracted with the week. This went a long way to restoring my mood, since I’m definitely a person who needs outer order for inner calm. Then we all went out to lunch, which I love doing as a family on the weekends. After lunch I ran a couple errands, and bought the boys new basketballs. This was a strategic move on my part – when I got home from running errands they were thrilled to have new balls and spent the next 2 hours outside playing basketball wearing themselves out while I sat on the couch and read a book. When they came in, I spent another hour or 2 on general housework, and then a delightful hour cooking dinner while watching college basketball.

By evening, I felt a million times better. The house was back to general order, I’d had some downtime, and I’d had the double treat of a lunch date and a couple hours to myself reading.

When you’ve had an unusually exhausting week, how do you recharge to get your energy back?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread for discussion on any topic.

Originally I had written today’s post about the SAT and college prep, but since we discussed that a bit in recent days it makes sense to open up today’s discussion to any topics you choose.  However, here’s the original post I wrote in case you’d still like to talk about it (and take the quiz):

Can You Answer 10 Hard-But-Not-That-Hard SAT Questions From 1926?

How did you do?  What do you think of how the SAT has changed over the years?

Let’s discuss the SAT, test prep, college prep, what we’re seeing among the kids we know, college search and selection, jobs after graduation, skipping college (gasp), myth vs. reality, anxiety or lack of it, brag, complain, etc.  Let’s ask questions and share our wisdom.

A Different Way to Meal Plan

by Lark

For years I have done our weekly meal plan around our protein. Each week I jot down a chicken dish, a beef dish, a pork dish, a soup or seafood (depending on the season), and a pasta dish. We have pizza once each week, and that just leaves one night to go out, get take out or eat cereal for dinner. After I write down the main dish, I fill it in with whatever sides/veggies I can think of. It has been my standby system for at least 10 years, maybe more.

Lately, though, I’ve switched it up. Winter in the South has some of my favorite vegetables, and I’m finding that I’m planning more around what vegetables are available rather than the old system. I find I want to eat as many of my favorites as I can before the season passes. So, this week’s meal plan started like this:

Monday – Kale salad
Tuesday – Roasted Brussels sprouts
Wednesday – Black beans (okay, not a vegetable but one of my favorite foods, and I have such a good recipe for homemade, I love them)
Thursday – Sweet potatoes
Friday – Caesar salad

Once I knew what veggies I wanted to eat, I filled in the rest. Now the meal plan looks like this:

Monday – Kale salad, pan seared tuna, garlic rice
Tuesday – Roasted Brussels sprouts, pan fried chicken thighs (this meal needs something else – will probably add sweet potato biscuits because I have some in my freezer)
Wednesday – Black bean soup and cheese quesadillas
Thursday – Sweet potatoes, grilled pork chops (will probably add green beans this night as the boys don’t like sweet potatoes)
Friday – Caesar salad, pizza (will do homemade salad and DH will pick up the pizza on the way home)
Saturday – Oyster roast with friends

Next week I want to fit in broccoli and winter squash.

Totebaggers (that does NOT roll of the tongue as easily as “Jugglers” used to): what’s for dinner tonight at your house? Any great recipes to share? What are your favorite vegetables?